Building a Self Portrait
For the longest time, I’ve wanted a good portrait to put on my About page. Trouble is, I’ve not been able to get together with a photographer to make that happen. Finally, I decided that I wanted to try making that happen myself. The location was easy — my living room — and the subject was willing, though not eager. As a photographer, I spend all of my time behind the camera. Turning the lens on myself was a lesson in what it feels like for everyone else. With my iPad by my side running previews, I was able to see immediately all of the blinks, goofy smiles, poor attempts at smizing, and just plain ugliness that ensued.
For my shot, I decided to run with something I saw Brad Trent do in a photo several months ago. Brad was mixing a very large soft source with a gridded beauty dish nearly on-axis to the soft source. This gave him a big, soft, light source with a very harsh and pointed focus. I didn’t go *quite* as big in my production as Brad did, but I did follow the same lead. If you look below at the shots, you can follow along with me.
I started by getting my gridded light ready. This light (1st shot) has a warming gel on it, a 1/2CTO if you’re into that sorta thing. I’m using a 16-degree grid to really control the spill so that the light is only hitting my face. Behind that light (2nd shot) is a Photek Softliter II which is a 36″ bounce umbrella and puts out super-soft light. This light is dialed down about 2/3 of a stop so that it’s really acting more as a fill than a key. I didn’t want to lose detail in my shirt, and I also wanted the blue wall behind me to go even more blue, which is also aided by moving the balance to cooler, since the grid has a 1/2CTO on it already.
Separately, these photos aren’t great. You can see in the third shot, once both light sources are turned on, the photo really starts to come together, I think. After a little tweaking in Lightroom, the portrait is complete. I’m rather happy with how it turned out. It’s not an overly staged shot, still relaxed, and the lighting is good. It’s not my normal look I’d go for, but it’s rather tough for me to pull off “artistic” when I’m not free to move wherever I want to, and have a shutter release cable in my hand.
Luckily, I was pretty much done once I had this photo. My dog, Memphis, absolutely hates cameras and camera flashes. I don’t know what happened to him, but he knows now when I’m grabbing my camera, even if I’m just moving it, and will come to me and start trying to get between me and whatever it is that’s bothering him. After about 30 minutes of shooting, he wandered into the living room and jumped right into my lap, effectively ending the shoot as you can see in the final photo.